How is trump still a viable candidate for president? Really, how?

I’m sort of considering this the third of a trilogy of recent trump “How?” threads, along with:

In the ‘manslaughter’ thread, I said this and @LSLGuy replied:

In one where “Anyone (R)” gets more followers than “Anyone (D)” because of relentless propaganda and the eletoral advantages of gerrymanderng and the EC. I think there’s not much more to it.

There have been times in the past when people here have said things like “I would vote for a chimp before I’d vote for an R for president”. The other side thinks the same thing. And this time they’re really being asked to vote for their chimp. Even if half of them don’t recognize he’s a chimp. We should be careful what we ask for rhetorically.

I wanted to reply but didn’t want to hijack that thread, so I’m starting my own.

So, trump is far and away the leading Repub candidate, and early polling is showing trump leading Biden in a potential rematch race, with people concerned that Biden doesn’t have the ‘mental sharpness’ for 4 more years. This, to me, is fairly terrifying.

It just boggles my mind that, after all we as a country have gone through with trump, that he’s still, not only a viable candidate, but with only 18 months until the election could very credibly be reelected President. How can this possibly be? trump has done and said things that would sink the political career of any other politician hundreds of times over. his many, many failings and horrible things he’s said and done have been discussed ad nauseum, so I won’t go into detail, but a few highlights:

  • trump is a failure politically. As president he accomplished very little legislatively, horribly mismanaged the pandemic, and lost the House in the midterms, the Senate by interfering in the Georgia Senate runoff, and the Presidency. About his only real accomplishment from a ‘R’ point of view is his stacking the Supreme Court and appointing a bunch of Federal judges, but McConnell was mostly the evil mastermind behind the SC stacking, and any R president could have just followed Federalist Society recommendations.
  • Virtually everybody who has ever affiliated themselves with trump in business or politically has been burned, many in career-ending ways. trump has thrown formerly loyal sycophants under the bus time and time again. It’s an open secret that many Repubs who publicly support him, actually despise him. When politics is all about ‘political capital’, the very currency of politics, how has this not come back to bite him in the ass?
  • and then there are the many, many crimes and multitude of stupid, crazy, racist, malevolent things he has repeatedly said publicly. His election denial and his causing the January 6 riots alone, shaking the core of our Democratic process, should be enough to destroy him politically.

And yet…he has been counted out and declared politically dead many times, and bounces back beating his terrible little drum like some nightmarish Energizer Bunny. Yes, one can argue, “it’s still early in the '24 campaign. trump has his rabid base, but can’t put together enough moderate votes for another win. He lost decisively in 2020.” But even after 4 years of insanity, he had more votes than any sitting president in history, only losing because the Dem base was fired up and even more of them voted for Biden. It’s a very real, very grim possibility that he may pull off a ‘Grover Cleveland’.

What is it that makes him the political equivalent of Jason in the many Friday the 13th sequels? I can only speculate:

  • As LSLGuy said, many voters have the attitude “I’d rather vote for a chimp than the other guy” and the Repubs are much better at portraying the other guy as a chimp than Dems are.
  • Most voters don’t pay very close attention, have short memories and attention spans, and the old Nazi trusim “repeat a lie enough times and it becomes the truth” comes into play. trump has the name recognition, and those inclined to vote ‘R’ or just not to vote Biden see trump’s bloviating as a sign of ‘strong leadership’.
  • Even though trump’s ‘rabid base’ is a minority not able to elect him on their own (I’ve heard an estimate of 25-30% of voters), they love trump because of, not despite, the qualities others despise him for, and will never, ever abandon him. That makes it easier to cobble together a few more moderate votes to put him over the top.
  • The ‘Deep State’ conspiracy mongering stuff that trump’s handlers came up with was a particularly evil genius creation, because it auto-inoculates trump against all criticism in those who are inclined to buy the BS. “they’re not against me, they’re against you, and I’m just in the way!”
  • trump has an almost feral instinct to sense opponents’ weakness and attack it. That, coupled with his absolute lack of shame that allows him to keep pushing forward despite every sin and failure, I think appeals to certain people on some atavistic level. It’s like an evil superpower.

So, what you think of my attempts to wrap my head around the black swan phenomenon that is trump? Is there more to it than what I can only guess at?

The GOP is stuck in a trap of their own making. They can’t win a primary without Trumpism, but they can’t win a general election with Trumpism.

The hardcore Trump base can win in blood red districts, but at a state wide or national level, they aren’t enough on their own. When Liz Cheney lost her primary, she still got 25% of the GOP primary vote. 25% of Republican voters voted for the woman trying to put Trump in jail! If Trumpism has lost 25% of the GOP voters, they cannot win anywhere that isn’t blood red.

I have no information. I only have an opinion. I think underestimating Trump, and the number and passion of Trump voters is very foolish. Turnout will be critical.

It’s really not that complicated or confusing. While it’s true that the bubbles that Democrats/liberals/centrists find themselves in are of a different nature than the various really dangerous right wing bubbles, places like the SDMB have very narrow perspectives on stuff like this.

Trump says the things conservatives want to hear, and he’s funny, and he goes after the people they don’t like. They feel good about all of that. He’s good at getting people to want him in charge. That’s it.

He himself is free of the burden of truth or shame, and he extends that blessing to his followers. Who wouldn’t want that in their lives? It’s quite powerful and alluring. /s

This component is a little more subtle.

Who he goes after automatically becomes the “people they don’t like”. Yes, of course immigrants and LGBTQ are perennial targets of the Right. But Gold Star Veterans? Viet Nam POWs? FBI/CIA?

And on the flip side, traditional boogie-men of the Right get the cozy treatment (Russia, North Korea) and his supporters pivot.

All of this shows that many supporters really don’t have an internal compass of principles and just want to be lead.

It is more true for him than for others, but that’s true of everyone to some degree. Certainly Democratic attitudes about, say, the police and criminal suspects or defendants are highly influenced by statements from national leaders.

But I don’t think it’s true that Trump is making these people’s hatred. He’s feeding off of it. When he attacks the bedrock of their beliefs, like when he was briefly pro gun-control or when he called their health care bill “mean,” they don’t decide those are their beliefs.

Beyond the personality cult aspects of Trumpery, he’s the acknowledged champion of those who fear and deride “the elites” - defined as anyone with sufficient education and experience* to affect public policy, and who thus threaten to unfairly “control” regular folks, aided and abetted by Mainstream Media.

Trump is capable of regularly outraging The Elites, and thus is perceived as a heroic/martyred figure. Every negative thing exposed about him is either a lie, the Other Side is worse, or both.

*and in the cases of Soros and Gates, money. Heavily moneyed influencers on the Right are of course motivated only by concern for American values.

Big part of “people they don’t like” is “people who disagree with us”, the rest doesn’t matter.

He’s an adherent and practitioner of P.T. Barnum’s principle of a sucker being born every minute. Play to people’s fears and prejudices, and the rest is what comprises the worst parts our planet’s history books.

Many of them appear to have achieved this goal, at least between their ears.

Oh, “led?” Never mind.

I’m sorry, I really hope you’re right in your general assumptions, but I don’t buy your argument. I don’t think a 25% GOP vote for Liz Cheney means trump or trumpism has lost those voters. Rather, I think that, Liz Cheney, who by all measures was a good Repub who voted along trumpist lines 90+% of the time, and whose only Repup sin was criticizing trump, the fact of her only getting 25% of the GOP vote is a scary wake-up call for the strength of trumpism.

trumpism is a study in Orwellian contradictions, is it not?

  • The born into money, constantly failing upward, very model of an elitist, who is now the champion of the anti-elites.
  • The virulently anti-immigration President who has employed hundreds, if not thousands, of conveniently cheap undocumented workers, even after he became President.
  • The Republicans’ Republican, who derides all Republicans who criticize him as ‘RINOs’, when he was a member of the Democratic party and good friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton not all that long ago.

Ignorance is Strength!

Man is good, but people are riffraff.
Inspired/translated from “Der Mensch is’ gut, aber die Leut’ san a G’sindel!” Johann Nestroy (angeblich)" where it is written that this often quoted aphorism is probably apocryphal and not, as often claimed, by Johann Netroy or Karl Valentin.
I am surprised by the degree of truth in this saying, and how much tanTrump concentrates this evil like a magnifying glass.

What?? She led the committee trying to put him in jail. She spearheaded the effort of trying to prove he committed sedition. That is not just criticizing trump. And we’re talking about Wyoming here. Very very red place. Still 25% of GOP primary voters, the most engaged GOP voters, voted for her. They aren’t changing their minds back. This happened after the 1/6 committee.

To answer, the OP, in a nutshell - when conservatives get a candidate that gives them the validation feels, they glue onto him hard.

Til death do we part. Political superglue.

Most of the things you’re talking about are the ‘traditional’ worries of normal politicians trying to figure out how to win votes without losing any votes they currently have.

But what Trump proved was that, for a lot of people, regular voter people here, not politicians, all that stuff the normal politicians worried about so much for so long just doesn’t matter. The problem of Trump isn’t a (direct) problem of Republican politicians, it’s a problem of Republican voters. The politicians have to play Trump’s game, because he’s proven that far too many voters don’t give a shit about the politicians’ games.

So no 'traditional" kind of scandal will bring him down. I’m not sure what kind of scandal could bring him down. Something ridiculous, I expect, that us sensible people will end up scratching our heads over. “Sexual assault, fraud, corruption, treason; none of that hurt him, but they abandoned him over X? WTF?!?!”

That is phrased about as succinctly as I have ever seen. Thanks.

I REALLY dislike that Trump has made me instinctively recoil from and dismiss just about anything coming from anyone with an R associated with them. I have a hard time thinking them good people, or that their ideas have any merit. In the past, I tended to favor liberal positions, but the idea of something being on the right side of sane did not overly bother me in most instances.

I find myself teetering on a fence WRT Trump. On one hand, I fear that his ugly supporters will succeed - either with him or his acolytes. (His appointed judges are truly frightening - and will be there for decades.) Which makes me think less and less of my fellow citizens. OTOH, I find myself hoping that there are enough modestly sane R people out there who will think Trump is too far for them to support. Leading to a more sane R party as a useful policy-making counterweight to the Dems.

But the silence from the R following the recent verdict against Trump is telling. Until powerful Rs reject him and his approach and commit to a more centrist path, I anticipate more ugliness.

This kind of thinking often gets me in trouble with very progressive liberals, when I suggest nominating candidates who I think MIGHT draw some moderate R support, as opposed to those who represent the groups I truly wish had more authority and would be more likely to advance needed change.

Agree. The bottom line is TFG outrages the libs like no one else and there are many people who find that, all by itself, appeal enough to give him their vote. Nothing else really matters, and no more thought is really required to answer the OP.

From Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind.

I attribute it to hatred and fear, at levels that far outdistance such paltry things as morality, ethics, provable facts, and mere common sense. They are afraid like immediate danger of death afraid. They have reason to be angry – but shit, doesn’t everyone? But only the falling of the edge of the world right wing have that kind of fear, blind running into a wall and breaking your own neck fear. And why? That is the question for the ages.